Communicating Culture and Values While Onboarding New Hires

Whether your organization is a small startup or a Fortune 500 corporation, the time to acclimate new hires with an understanding of your culture and values is during onboarding. There is a lot of talk these days about onboarding, and just so you know more about our philosophy, employee orientation is not the same as onboarding. You might stop me here and say, look we don’t have a lot of time to waste, and we just need to get a new hire “to work”. However, when you consider the cost of that first six months or a year, it doesn’t take long to figure out that communications of what you stand for, believe in, and what’s important should begin even before a new hire arrives, even from the interviewing stage.

Have you ever arrived at a new employer on day one to find yourself spending most of the day filling out paperwork, watching videos and reading the employee handbook? I have heard of employees sitting in their space for two or three days before meeting an interested peer or an executive. I was asked in my first week on one new position to prepare the communications plan for terminating fifteen employees before I had a clue as to what the culture of the company was and how the values played into such operational decisions.

Onboarding tends to be a one-way street without planning the communications which will make the processes result in positive outcomes.  We tell new employees what we expect of them, where they will sit, how to do their timecard, and a bit about who’s who. Most well-developed onboarding programs focus on training and often, mentoring, with metrics for evaluating progress. It seems to me that onboarding should include opportunities for new hires to understand the culture and values so that they can fit in from the onset. Two-way conversations uncover the value the new hire brings to the organization as well as the how we already work as a team.

Culture is communicated through words and actions with the person who is our supervisor, senior leadership, employees with whom we interact, and sometimes even vendors or long-standing customers. What would your onboarding look like if the newly hired employee could build relationships from the very beginning with a wide range of people who understand your culture?

In addition to building into a new hire’s first days a chance to meet with human resources and the immediate supervisor, would it be possible for a CEO hosted lunch or tour of the building? In organizations with large populations, where new hires often begin during the same week, is it possible to have different interesting employees from each business unit come in to tell their story, from their perspective, about the culture and how certain values make them feel engaged on their teams?

Have you ever started a new position and felt left out of some of the unspoken rules or history that team members share? One way to bring new employees into the company is to pick a couple of simple work habits for them to talk about early on. For example, ask new hires to write down what they like to drink at work such as coffee (and how they like it), tea, bottled water, and how often. Not everyone’s coffee maker or vending machine works the same, so sharing from their simple daily lifestyle habits makes it easy to start two-way conversations.

Remember, having new hires may even cause some silent stress for your employees. Don’t assume that the attention on new hires during onboarding is always understood by others. Even though they understand that an individua would not have been hired if their qualifications didn’t fit, but how will their personality or values align? The more you encourage opportunities to build relationships through that first year, the more likely work will be productive.

If you would like to work on new strategies to communicate and engage employees in your culture, please let me know so we can schedule a time to chat.